Tag Archives: career advice

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How to lose the disengaged employee tag

Employee engagement – or rather the lack of it, has been a hot HR topic for many years. Research from Deloitte indicates that the issues of “retention and engagement” have risen to No. 2 spot on the business agenda, “second only to the challenge of building global leadership.” This is rooted in compelling indications that a very high percentage of members of the workforce (as many as 66% ) would describe themselves as a disengaged employee.

It makes sense that organizations need to fine tune their career progression opportunities to attract top talent. It also means that with literally millions of employees potentially open to a move, candidates face stiffer competition to position themselves as an ideal hire when looking externally.  Employers frequently complain about difficulties finding the right kind of talent. In a recent survey Glassdoor suggests that 76% of organisations fail to find the right talent. So that must be you.

What can you do to shrug off the disengaged employee moniker if your current career progression has stalled and present yourself differently?

The job you have

Let’s kick off with the obvious. The job you are in is the one you have for the moment. Very often demotivated employees takes their foot off the career progression pedal. They check-out and do the bare minimum to coast by. It’s hard to convince any potential hiring manager who is looking for agile and dynamic talent that you will meet their criteria if you are stuck in your current role and above all look and act stuck. Anyone who is looking to boost their career needs to take charge of their personal development. This involves know-how, time and energy. For starters you need to ditch the disengaged employee tag.

How to lose the disengaged employee tag

Create a plan 

The first step is to have goals and a strategy. Those who leave things to chance and expect and organization to take care of them are the ones that come unstuck first. Communicate those ambitions to your manager. Do  a realistic assessment of your own performance. If anything needs addressing  – do just that.

Raise your visibility  

It’s important that people know who you are and you are perceived to be pro-active. Instead of whining about lack of opportunities create solutions and make yourself part of that initiative, showcasing how you can add value to the business. Participate in meetings and be willing to take on new challenges.

Up your game

Now is the time to do more, or at least something different, not less. Position yourself for the next role by learning as much about the next steps as possible and the skill set required.

Show flexibility

A disengaged employee tends to be stuck in a rut and gets caught up in old and frequently bad habits and work practices.  This can be accompanied by a negative attutude. Now is the time to be flexible and be willing to take on continuous learning and personal development, even if it means investing in yourself. You may have been in the same role for years but show you have updated your skills. Add these to your LinkedIn profile so other people can also see what you’ve been up to.

Test the market

A disengaged employee whose career progression has stalled will struggle to present themselves as the right kind of candidate. Make sure you maintain your external networking to stay in touch with developments in your market. You may have set backs but it’s important to build resilience. Stay positive and confident. You might change jobs but if you haven’t looked inwardly to figure out what is holding you back you will merely transport the issues to another location.

If you want to source ideal candidates  contact me now

Career advice needs context

Why career advice is meaningless without context

There is no shortage of career advice, with any number of people giving tips on what and not what to do. There is even advice on what career advice to ignore. Everyone has careers, so we all believe we know what everyone else should do. But as with anything, these bumper sticker type homilies are much more nuanced than we ever imagined. Times and workplaces change. Circumstances change. Heaven forbid – you change. These golden tips and nuggets of wisdom need to be revisited and always put into context. Context is everything when it comes to career advice. Without that – any career advice is meaningless.

4 common pieces of career advice without context

#1 You have to follow your passion

This is the most regularly doled out of all career tips. If it was a movie or a song it would get an award. Of course you should all be advised to do something you love and which satisfies you. Otherwise you will be condemned to a life of frustration and misery. But there are some caveats. The first is to be strategic. Do you have the skills or can you acquire them? The next question is will that passion pay the bills? At the age of 14, I was passionate about tennis, but there was no way I could make a living at it. Or had the skills. That is something that very often people misunderstand. I know one woman who was an excellent home cook and passionate about food. But she was unable to turn that passion into something that paid her bills. Some things like my tennis, are best kept as hobbies.

The other thing is that your passion can change over the years. So something that you might be passionate about in your 20s,  can be the source of unremitting boredom in later life.

You can also develop new passions. It’s not inconceivable that you might find two or even more passions in a working life which is extending all the time.

Core advice: maintain a path of life-long learning. Be open to possibilities and be sure to do your inner work regularly. Assess and prioritize your goals.  In our careers we will be passionate about many things at various times. At different stages of our lives we have a range of commitments and constraints. There is nothing wrong with having to defer to those in the short-term. As life goes on compromises are made as we factor other people’s needs into our planning. The question is do you feel compromised? If you do, then it’s time for a re-evaulation. The pace of change is also so great in our workplaces, that we have no idea what jobs will exist in 10 years that we may become passionate about.

Passion isn’t static for most people. It’s misleading to suggest it might be.

Read: Knowing yourself in the beginning of all wisdom 

#2. You should have a dream

Martin Luther King had a dream.  Some athletes, movie-stars, musicians have dreams. Other more regular people also have them. But unless that vision is backed up by a strategy, goals and a plan then it is worthless.  Relate this to your passion. The same criteria apply.

Core advice: See above

#3. There is no substitute for hard work

Actually there is. I prefer the advice to work smart. In an era of 24/7 availability the pressure to work incredibly long hours is high. In some sectors it’s a badge of honour and status symbol, particularly for men.  Burnout, breakdowns and depression are now normal. There are times when hard work is necessary. But it’s not just about the hours clocked  – it’s about the quality of those hours and their strategic value.

A bedfellow to this piece of advice is that you are judged by your work, so you should allow that work “to speak for itself.” That isn’t necessarily true. People tend to be judged by their results and they need to be able to develop a message that people are aware of. Find a mentor or a sponsor to help you share that message. This is a very female trap to wait for recognition. It frequently doesn’t call. We all have poor, lazy colleagues who still manage to do well.

Core advice: work smart and strategically, have a plan. Network effectively, work with a sponsor who will act as your door opener and find balance. Don’t be afraid to communicate your achievements. Done properly, with some humility, it is not bragging.

Read; Overwhelmed by a culture of overwork

#4. Get as many qualifications as you can 

Today with the cost of education sky rocketing and many graduates leaving university to depressed job markets with huge debts, the further education argument is now under discussion. It is no longer the golden conveyor to career success. So the career advice in this area should be tempered. Clearly there are certain professions which require higher education. In medicine, engineering, architecture and so on, minimum academic professional standards are not optional. But a number of organisations are starting to drop the focus on degree qualifications and look at other skills. The accounting firm Ernst and Young says that there is

‘No evidence’ that success at university is linked to achievement in professional assessments”

The World Economic Forum list the following as vital skills in the future of work:  literacy,  numeracy,  financial knowledge, technology, soft skills (see list below)

wef -skills

 Core advice: The workplace is changing at a terrific pace and currently there is a massive disconnect with our education systems. There is no doubt that the value of traditional educational paths is coming under question. I would definitely think long and hard before taking a liberal arts or soft degree and relate that carefully to longer term career projections. This brings us back again to life long learning. No one can afford not to update their skills on an ongoing basis. Failure to do so will be a problem. So you can have as many qualifications as you like, but if they are out of date, or redundant – they are of no value

Success means different things to each of us. The important element is to be clear what it means to you and to check regularly if those factors are consistent and constant. Career advice is not a one of one size fits all. The advice we need, will evolve as we and our circumstances do.

For career advice, context is not just critical, it’s everything.

Make sure you contact me for any career advice and coaching! [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

My top posts in 2014

A BIG thank you to all my readers.  Here are the posts you enjoyed most!

 CVs

Personal interests: 10 CV dos and don’ts:  There is always much conflicting advice from career experts on what to include on CVs. One of the areas  that has an opinion divide of Grand Canyon proportions,   is  whether  including your personal interests and hobbies on your resume can actually make a difference to the selection process.

The hard truth about soft skills: Five years ago it was normal to have a line at the top of a CV just stating a professional objective. What we are seeing now is a marked shift. Most companies are less interested, in the early stages of a hiring process at least, in what a candidate wants personally.

Personal Brand and Executive Presence 

How to rebuild a damaged reputation:   Reputation has been a topic covered by many thought leaders and philosophers from  Shakespeare, to Socrates and more recently Warren Buffet who says  ” It  takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think  about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Is there an executive presence hand book and if there is, what lessons can be learned?  It all sounds a bit like personal branding by another name to me.  Read on…

Workplace bullying

Accused on being a bully: Most organisations have guidelines for what constitutes bullying behaviour and ACAS certainly does. A critical self-analysis and audit is vital to check if firm management could have crossed the line into bullying. It is possibly best done with the support of a coach or other professional.  This can happen in organisations with a top-down, embedded bullying corporate culture. If the answer is no – go to the next step of analysis.

Mobbing is emotional abuse by stealth in an organisation or community”  Read how to deal with it.   

 As a “Titian blonde”,  I was surprised to learn that there is a growing move for redheads to become a  “protected minority” as a result of the increased incidence of bullying and discrimination. Read more…  

Career Transition

Repatriation  –   8 causes of  re-entry shock;  Increasingly there is a great deal of corporate support during the outward process to guarantee a seamless transition into an expat assignment.   But I know from any number of stories heard socially and professionally, that repatriation is quite often not supported as seriously as the outbound transfer and even neglected totally by many companies.

Frozen eggs don’t address the real issues:  I am all for family planning being openly discussed with both men and women equally.  I am all for career strategy. I can indeed see there could be some advantages in the egg freezing perk but I am also aware of the process being fraught with potential difficulties.

Communication

Over-communication  7 reasons to learn Mench  A recent article in the Harvard Business Review  suggested what happened to a senior woman in a meeting ” was like a snowball going down a hill and picking up stuff in its path”  and was a real barrier to being taken seriously  So what happens to people who over communicate and is this a gender issue?

Interview advice

6 ways to shine in a group interview: An increasing number of companies are now carrying out group interviews to reduce recruitment costs.  As an added benefit, this process also allows hiring managers to measure the performance of potential candidates simultaneously and to make behavioural and leadership assessments which they can rank.  Although this type of interview practise is carried out more frequently at junior levels,  I am starting to hear that this selection style  is being implemented for more senior roles.

Designer stubble and interviews:  For many years facial hair has almost considered a barrier to career progression for men. A 2003 University of Sao Paulo study showed 60% of personnel managers said they preferred clean-shaven men as a boss, compared to 15% who preferred a bearded boss. But is this changing with a younger generation coming through the ranks? The former CEO of Apple, the late Steve Jobs was well known for sporting signature, designer stubble.  Are these attitudes now out dated?

 What would you add?

 

10 Executive Presence Rules

We’ve read a lot recently about executive presence and the hype associated with those indefinable characteristics  style, substance and character or charisma, communication and appearance.  A veritable industry has been spawned to define and navigate this amorphous concept which apparently is perceived to contribute by 26% to successful career progression. So is there an executive presence hand book and if there is, what lessons can be learned?  It all sounds a bit like personal branding by another name to me.

As you know I am firmly in the camp that for most of us those attributes and skills can be honed and even learned, so when I look at some of our so-called top leaders I do confess to being a little mystified.

I can’t help but wonder if this is yet another myth, or series of myths, conjured up to dupe the average person into feelings of extreme inadequacy. But perhaps us lesser mortals should take heart.

Do press photos of Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs for example, conjure up images of global inspiration?  A normal person wouldn’t even be allowed in a night club or even some shopping malls, wearing a hoodie, let alone a board room. We have also all known high-profile figures whose integrity and other characteristics associated with executive presence, are firmly in the dubious category, as witnessed in the recent financial crisis.

So if these individuals are successful, why is there a different set of rules for the rest of us? Or is this all mainly old-fashioned re-packaged common sense? Remember those parental platitudes about eye contact, not mumbling and standing up straight? Will today’s parents be admonishing their kids for neglecting their executive presence?

If we are aiming to have a credible and memorable executive presence, what sensible takeaway moves can you lift to include in your own executive presence rule book to stand out from the crowd?

10 rules from the Executive Presence Handbook

  1. Feel passionate and committed about your idea and what you do. Apathy is clearly not convincing.
  2. Have a vision and be willing and able to share it. How many armchair entrepreneurs have failed because they never got further than their own sofa?
  3. Make your story a fascinating cocktail: succinct, with energy, using simple, persuasive, but powerful language, usually with a dash of humour. We all like to laugh and people who talk too much are usually poor listeners.
  4. Understand the value of a first impression – they really matter. It’s like a first date. Eye contact, firm handshake, good posture are still critical.  There is a sting in this for women, who are judged far more harshly on their appearance than men.
  5. Earn trust. Body language should always match words to build credibility. If there’s a mixed message – body language will always win the day. Remember Bill Clinton’s one liner that resulted in impeachment “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”  Yeah right!
  6. Be approachable and communicate directly, but with sensitivity and compassion. Good manners maketh both men and women.
  7. Be decisive and incisive – protracted decision-making and cluttered thinking loses the audience. Obama cited consistently as having executive presence, lost some credibility for indecisiveness in his foreign policy.
  8. Moderate emotions. Poise under pressure is a highly rated. Extreme emoting is another deal breaker no matter how it is exhibited. A touch of controlled emotion is always well received under certain circumstances, something Tony Blair and Obama have perfected, yet Hillary Clinton was slated for having an emotional moment in public.
  9. Be accountable. Act with decency and integrity. Although sadly, how many world-famous so called leaders have thrown this one out of the window?
  10. Demonstrate humility and graciousness, a quality everyone remembers and responds to. Humble leaders understand they need to evolve themselves too. Nobody warms to a bragger.

But  almost every successful leader can be quoted about the need to break the rules.

So where does that leave  the rest of us?

 

Pitchcraft: The 3Ps – Prepare, Practise, Perform

A number of people claim responsibility for creating the term Pitchcraft so I can’t source it exactly. It’s a term I’ve used myself for many years, thinking I was being very creative, although not in the context of baseball, which I find incomprehensible. This is on par with its equally mystifying UK counterpart cricket  – but “bowlcraft” doesn’t have quite the same ring.

However, like any sport the aim is the same. To deliver a winning performance.

It is simply the art of delivering your message in the way that is most appropriate for the situation. This can range from a subtle message to a full on sales drive.  It should be something we can deliver smoothly and succinctly to meet every occasion. Clearly you are not going to produce the same pitch on a hot date as you would in a networking event, unless of course you didn’t want a second date, in which case it would be a sure-fire tactic.

You would be surprised how many people fail to prepare to pitch in their careers. By doing so as Benjamin Franklin said, in reality they are preparing to fail. Opportunities come and go, many times when they are least expected.  We know that if a lot of famous, successful people, many of whom are no longer with us,  are oft quoted on any subject, then there will be truisms involved.  And there are indeed lots of quotes on preparation and being prepared. But a high number of people are not prepared to pitch themselves, whether in a formal interview, in a meeting, with their clients, their boss or in a networking situation. Very often not only are they unprepared, they might even be reluctant to do so.

In the words of another late American President

The 3Ps of Pitchcraft are:

1. Prepare  

  • Have you carried out a review of personal and career goals –  are they aligned?
  • Do you know your strengths and development needs?
  •  When was the last time you did an audit of your CV and online profile?  Have you identified your hard and soft skills? Can you articulate your success stories?
  • Do you have an up to date, ready to send CV?

2. Practise

  • How fluent is your 30 second commercial?
  • How is your non-verbal communication?
  • What about responses to typical interview questions.  Do you have any prepared?  What about the old chestnut  “Tell me about yourself” It is a trick question!

3. Perform

  • How smooth is your delivery? Can you deliver your USP in any circumstances –  a cocktail party, networking event or other business occasion. Or do you make even yourself cringe it sounds so awkward
  • Have you ever recorded yourself either online or on your own answer machine? How do you sound?

And finally another truism on the subject

Staying on message: A job search challenge

How much to share and with whom?
Another confusing area for job seekers is how much information to share in the job search process. This is another topic where every man, woman, child and goldfish has an opinion. Using buzz speak this is about brand alignment, when we are all supposed to produce consistent personal brand content, all the time. Staying on message can be a major challenge.

The irony of course is that any resume you produce might be correctly professional and neutral, but your cyber foot might leave behind yeti size tracks in its wake and you will open your mouth, only to change feet. Understand well, that you will be researched prior to an interview and there is very little room to hide. So how do you stay true to the professional image you’re trying to create, when there are so many ways to check us all out , especially as most of us have multiple interests and are multifaceted?

Staying on message challenges

Here are some issues that have been posed to me

Claiming a passion   There has to be back up. If you say you are passionate about renewable energy – make sure that there is evidence out there somewhere. We do check. So join LinkedIn or local groups and visibly participate. If you have multiple interests and goals then be prepared to explain them. On the other hand I know an accountant who has a fabulous blog on food and restaurants which he writes under a pseudonym, simply because he doesn’t want his employer perceive him as frivolous. In my view he is hiding a key part of who he is, which is a shame. Others have multiple blogs where they write about other areas of interest. Check out Gilly Weinstein a professional coach, who showcases her alternative interests in a blog separate to her professional web site.

Age and birthdate – this is no longer legally required on a resumé, but any recruiter with half a brain can figure it out. There is a double bind here. Withholding can send red alerts that something is amiss – either too old or too young for the position in question. But I suggest that you don’t include it, simply because you may be bypassed by some pre programmed Applicant Tracking Systems. But be proud of who you are and offer metrics that add value. You cannot hide all references to your history on the internet or air brush every photo. If you lie – you will almost certainly be found out.

Religion – unless you are applying to a religious organisation where your affiliation will be meaningful and key, then it would not be necessary to supply this information to a secular organisation.

Home address – I would leave out. There are some strange people in this world and you don’t want them pitching up at your home. Simply stating your city and country should be sufficient

Hobbies – now here I really go against many career pundits. People’s hobbies and past times tell me a lot about a person. They might show energy, committment, discipline, attention to detail, community spirit and many other qualities – so I always look. If your idea of surfing is sitting on a sofa changing channels, I agree that is best omitted. Those interests also have to be current. Unless you were an Olympic medallist , telling an employer of your university sporting achievements is only appropriate for entry-level candidates and possibly one level above. 15 years down the line regretfully they add little value, especially if you are a little soft around the middle.

Marital status – agree not necessary information, although many volunteer it. Do not include photos of yourself with your partner on professional profiles

Children – agree the CV is about you. Ditto about pictures of your children (or pets) on professional profiles

Links to online platforms – if they are relevant to your job application and have a professional content, they can certainly add value, especially a LinkedIn profile URL. It’s also a way of giving more information such as recommendations and a slide share presentation. They show you’re in touch with current technological trends and offer insight into your personality.If your FB status updates are along the lines of ” Yo dude… see you in the pub … ” Then no. Omit. Make sure there are no inappropriate photos online and you are not tagged in anyone else’s. Check your Facebook photo line ups are how you want to be perceived. I was horrified to find I had been tagged in a photo taken two days after I had surgery recently. I looked in pain – probably because I was.

Sexual orientation – this is no one’s business except your own. It is illegal to discriminate on those grounds. If there are any photos of you with partners in cyber space, regardless of orientation, they should be appropriate.

Life objectives – this is now considered to be old school and has been replaced by a career mission statement, so definitely should not be on a CV. At some point any long-term goals can be shared, but I would advise waiting until you know the person you will be sharing that information with. Any general, gentle social icebreakers such as wanting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, are perhaps best included in the hobbies section, in my book are completely OK.

Online conflict this is a tough one. Healthy debate on even contentious issues I feel is part of life’s rich tapestry. However, anything abusive or defamatory should be avoided. We are now entering an era where individuals are being disciplined or even fired for negative remarks about bosses, employers or team mates on Facebook and Twitter. The difference between this and a real life situation, is that your words will be recorded somewhere… forever. No one knows what happens to deleted material on many of these online platforms.

In today’s social media age it is truthfully difficult to keep anything completely secret – even your weight! The trick is to try to manage your cyber foot print, while remaining true to yourself. In my view this is one of today’s greatest job search challenges. No matter what you leave out, or how professionally neutral any of us are, it is very hard to be constantly on message.

But really how much does that matter?

What do you think?